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Chemical Technicians


The practice of modern chemistry goes back thousands of years to the earliest days when humans extracted medicinal substances from plants and shaped metals into tools and utensils for daily life. In the late 18th century, chemistry became established as a science when Antoine Lavoisier formulated the law of the conservation of matter. From that time until the present, the number and types of products attributed to the development and expansion of chemistry are almost incalculable.

The period following World War I was a time of enormous expansion of chemical technology and its application to the production of goods and consumer products such as high-octane gasoline, antifreeze, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and artificial fibers and fabrics. This rapid expansion increased the need for professionally trained chemists and technicians. The technicians, with their basic chemical knowledge and manual skills, were able to handle the tasks that did not require the specialized education of their bosses. These nonprofessionals sometimes had the title of junior chemist.

During the last 30 years, however, there has been a radical change in the status of the chemical technician from a "mere" assistant to a core professional. Automation and computerization have increased laboratory efficiency, and corporate downsizing has eliminated many layers of intermediate hierarchy. The result has been to increase the level of responsibility and independence, meaning greater recognition of the importance of today's highly skilled and trained chemical technicians.

In the past few decades, it has become clear that industrial processes (many of which involve the use of chemicals) are causing serious damage to the environment. As a result, the field of green chemistry has emerged to help technicians and chemists create more environmentally friendly production processes and end products. 

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